The Italian Almanac

coral art

Italian News - June 15

An exhibition in the southern Italian town of Potenza spotlights the use of coral in the ancient world with a spectacular array of rare finds. The show, entitled 'Coralli segreti, Immagini e miti dal mare tra Oriente e Occidente' (Secret Corals, sea legends and images of the West and the Orient), opens next week at Potenza's Dinu Adamesteanu Archaeological Museum.

The main attraction is a series of pieces dating back to the fourth century BC unearthed at excavations in the surrounding region of Basilicata. These were the work of the Greek colonies which, at that time, packed the southern part of the Italian peninsular - so much so that the Romans, who took control of the area in the third century BC, called it Magna Graecia, Greater Greece.

"There are still many mysteries about the use of coral in ancient times," explained Anna Maria Reggiani, the Culture Ministry's Archaeology Director General. "The material's presence in temples and at burial sites is truly rare, even in regions where it is easy to find, like Sardinia. There are extremely few archaeological finds featuring coral".

Visitors to the show can also learn about the Greek mythological explanation of how the first coral was created. According to legend, when Perseus rested Medusa's head on a bed of seaweed, her blood turned the seaweed into coral. The exhibition also highlights the use of coral in Eastern cultures, with splendid objects from Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Mongolia and Tibet.